cover image My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Paula J. Freedman. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0806-0

Freedman’s debut packs in questions about cultural and religious identity, mother/daughter conflicts, first crushes, middle-school dilemmas, and friend crises. At times, the mix can be overwhelming, but the author combines the many plot elements into a thought-provoking narrative. Seventh-grader Tara Feinstein’s bat mitzvah is fast approaching, and she is questioning her belief in God, as well as how the Jewish and Indian aspects of her heritage intersect. Tara’s Indian-American mother, a convert to Judaism, has strong feelings about how Tara should approach the bat mitzvah, reflecting her own need to fit in, but Tara wants to make choices for herself and incorporate Indian elements into the celebration. Meanwhile, things have gotten awkward with Tara’s best friend Ben-o, who seems to want to be more than friends; an irritating classmate, Ryan, is crushing on her, too; and Tara’s other best friend, Rebecca, is growing closer to “major know-it-all” Sheila. Tara’s inquisitiveness, openness, and determination to chart her own path stand out in this warm story of family, faith and the ways people are unique yet intertwined. Ages 10–14. Agent: Judith Riven Literary Agent. (Oct.)